East Lansing, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The 19th-ranked Michigan State Spartans will play their home opener against the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers on Friday night.
This will be just one of two games at the Breslin Center in the month of November for the Spartans, who have won their last 37 home openers. Coach Tom Izzo's squad fell to 1-1 on the campaign on Tuesday as it dropped an 81-71 decision to fourth-ranked Duke. The loss followed a season-opening 64-59 victory over Navy on the Patriot League school's home floor. Michigan State is coming off a 29-9 season which ended with a loss to eventual NCAA champion Connecticut in the Elite Eight. The Spartans set a pair single-season school record in 2013-14 with 307 makes from beyond the arc and 637 assists.
The Spartans have new leadership on the floor this season, as senior forward Branden Dawson appears to be the new go-to-guy in East Lansing. Dawson is off to a decent start, posting 15 ppg and 8.5 rpg through MSU's first two outings. Co-Captain Travis Trice is pacing the team with 20 ppg and 6.5 apg, while junior guard Denzel Valentine is adding nine ppg and 4.5 apg. Izzo has a promising newcomer who is expected to make a huge impact for the Spartan in 2014-15 in Bryn Forbes. The junior shooting guard ranked second in the Horizon League in 3-point field goals made last season while starring for Cleveland State.
Loyola enters its first away game of the season with a 2-0 record thanks to wins over Division II foes Rockhurst (71-58) and McKendree (78-68). Coach Porter Moser led his Ramblers to its 10th win last season in the opening round of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, but had its 2013-14 run end the next day with a loss to Indiana State, its 22nd setback of the campaign. Loyola has connected on 55.1 percent of its field goal tries through its first two games.
The Ramblers have not defeated a ranked opponent since it upset Butler in 2009. They have not earned a decision over MSU since Jan 2. 1939. Loyola returned its top five scorers from last season and added an intriguing group of seven newcomers to the fold. Its offense still revolves around the inside- outside tandem of Christian Thomas and Milton Doyle. Thomas averaged 13.3 ppg and 6.2 rpg in the post for the Ramblers, and enters Friday's game with 985 career points. Doyle, who was originally set to play for Bill Self at Kansas, posted 14.9 ppg and 3.6 apg in 2013-14 en route to the MVC Newcomer and Freshman of the Year awards. Another key contributor for Loyola is 6-foot-7 Montel James, who is providing 12.5 ppg and six rpg.
This will be the 12th matchup in history between the Ramblers and Spartans on the hardwood. Michigan State owns a commanding, 9-2, all-time series lead, but both losses occurred in East Lansing.